Over the past few months working from home has, for many in the UK, become part of the ‘new normal’. When the government announced a country-wide lockdown in March 2020, it put paid to commuting to and from the office for all but those with positions considered essential. The eerie sight of major UK cities with literally nobody on the streets became a motif over the summer, and will remain a reminder of just how quickly things can change in the light of a dangerous threat.
Of course, you are aware it is the ongoing covid-19 pandemic that has altered our lives considerably of late. We are lucky to be in the digital age where broadband communication allows for video conferencing and online communication of other kinds. However, not everyone finds working from home easy. What can you do to streamline your experience and make it less stressful? We’ve got a few ideas you can think about, so let’s get down to business.
Create a Special Space
First things first, your bed is not the place to work from no matter how tempting it may be! You need a specified space that is where you go to work. There and only there do you settle down to answer emails, take and make calls or any aspect of your job. The trick is to make it feel as though you are at work, and not simply ‘working from home’. It’s difficult but it can be done, so you need to define your working space.
Start by looking around your home for an adequate space. It does not have to be large, just enough for you to put a desk or table, and your computer equipment and telephone. If you have a spare room then that’s ideal; if not, take a section of the least-used room and utilise that. If you are very short of space – and we understand that many people are – then you may have to resort to the kitchen table. It is not ideal, but for some it is the only option.
Choose Your Furniture
Once you have your space defined, you need a desk or table. Preferable is a dedicated desk, as this may be your working space for a long time. You can find cheap desks that are simple and stylish at many stores, so have a look online. We advise that you consider your office chair carefully. You will be sat, as you are in the office, for long periods so make sure you put a good proportion of any budget towards a comfortable and adjustable office chair.
A useful tip when setting up your office is to consider the available light. If you have a window you can put your desk next to that will be the idea position, otherwise make sure you have adequate artificial light to work with.
Consider Your Décor
You want your special working space to be a pleasant place to work from. To this end you may want to consider changing your décor to a more suitable and bearable style. What is great for evenings watching the TV is not necessarily right for an office. You want it to be plain and neutral, so we advise that you take a brush to the walls immediately around you, so they don’t stand out so much.
Surround your working area with furnishings that you feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to add pictures and calendars as you would your office space at work. You’ll find that if you make your home office more recognisable as an office, you’ll settle in more quickly than if it simply looks like you’ve settled in a corner of the room.
Think About Practicality
While we’ve talked about picking an ideal spot and making it feel like the perfect place for you to work from, we’ve yet to mention the practical aspects. For example, you need access to mains plug sockets, and most likely for more than one device. This can lead to extension leads being draped across the floor – a health and safety hazard in your actual workplace. Treat the H&S aspects as you would at work. Find a spot that is close to a double socket at least and use multiple faced plugs rather than extension leads.
You will also need to be within range of your Wi-Fi router, and in homes with poor reception this may not be the easiest thing to achieve. You can purchase booster packs that extend the range of a Wi-Fi system in the home and they are not expensive. If you are setting up in a spare room – or even a garage if you have one that is little used and can be heated – then consider adding a break station: a kettle, mini-fridge and so on will make life much more like work and negate the need to pop to the kitchen where you will be waylaid by family members and get distracted.
Overcoming Initial Concerns
It will take some time to get used to working from home, and especially distancing yourself from the fact you are in your home. This is important, as you need as few distractions as possible. Make your office just that and make it out of bounds to others except where absolutely necessary. Ensure that anyone else in the household knows that when you are at your desk you are at work, and not available for household duties.
Set yourself the regular hours you work normally – of course, you’ll save time on commuting so can sleep in that little bit longer – and take the usual breaks that you would at the office. Starting with a routine that you intend to stick to is important so make sure you consider n advance what you need to get done in the day.
There will be problems, and there will be interruptions, but once you have your home office set up as you want and have made it a place you are happy to be in, you’ll soon get the hang of working from home.